Where is Magog, Meshech and Tubal?
By Joel Richardson
I was not entirely surprised to see that one of my most recent articles, Does Psalm 83 Describe the New Middle-East War? has led to a quite a bit of controversy on a couple of prophecy-related blogs. It appears as though the gist of the disagreement revolves around two things: (1) A map I included in my article of the invading nations of Ezekiel 38 & 39’s oracle often referred to as the Battle of Gog of Magog, wherein I located Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Togarmah all in Asia Minor or modern day Turkey, and (2) my identification of the lands controlled by Assyria during the reign of King David, and the ministry of Asaph. It seems these two points have raised the ire of some fellow students of the Bible. Thus, very briefly, I’d like to address these two issues.
First, below is my map detailing the nations mentioned in Ezekiel 38 & 39’s oracle concerning the Battle of Gog of Magog:
Now below is a partial collection of maps from various Bible Atlases, as well as other scholarly reference works from which I arrive at my conclusions. The Atlases which represent the most up-to-date scholarship are included first and the slightly older Atlases follow. Note that the author of the critical blog post mentioned above places Magog, Meshech and Tubal all in Russia or Georgia, all well outside and north of modern day Turkey.
IVP Atlas of Bible History
The New Moody Atlas of the Bible
The Holman Bible Atlas
Zondervan Atlas of the Bible
Harper Collins Atlas of Bible History
ESV Bible Atlas
Baker’s Bible Atlas
The Macmillan Bible Atlas
IVP New Bible Atlas
—The Oxford Bible Atlas says of Meshech and Tubal that they are, “regions in Asia Minor [Turkey].”
—Old Testament scholar Daniel I. Block, in the New International Commentary on Ezekiel, says, “It seems best to interpret Magog as a contraction of an original māt Gūgi, ‘land of Gog,’ and to see here a reference to the territory of Lydia in western Anatolia [Turkey].”
—The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary states, “Magog, possibly meaning ‘the land of Gog,’ was no doubt in Asia Minor [Turkey] and may refer to Lydia.”
—The IVP Bible Background Commentary lists Magog, Meshech, Tubal, and Togarmah as “sections or peoples in Asia Minor” [Turkey].
—The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, under the entry for “Magog,” states, “It is clear that Lydia [Turkey] is meant, and that by ‘Magog,’ we must understand, ‘the land of Gog.’”
—The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary places Magog in Anatolia, or modern-day Turkey.
—The Catholic Encyclopedia states, “It seems more probable that . . . Magog should be identified with Lydia [Turkey]. On the other hand, as Mosoch and Thubal were nations belonging to Asia Minor, it would seem from the text of Ezechiel that Magog must be in that part of the world. Finally, others with Josephus identify Magog with Scythia, but in antiquity this name was used to designate vaguely any northern population.”
—Hippolytus of Rome, one of the most important Christian theologians of the third century, in his Chronicon, connected Magog to the Galatians in Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey.
—Pliny the Elder a first-century Roman military commander, author, naturalist, and philosopher placed Magog on the border of Syria and modern day Turkey.
—Maimonides, also known as Rambam, the revered Jewish sage, in Hichot Terumot, also identified Magog as being on the border of modern day Turkey.
—Pastor author and well-known prophecy teacher Mark Hitchcock places Meshech and Tubal in modern day Turkey.
—Author Joel C. Rosenberg also places both Meshech and Tubal in modern day Turkey.
—Likewise Dr. Thomas Ice, executive director of the Pre-Trib Research Center says, “Some Bible teachers in the past have taught that Meshech is a reference to Moscow and thus refers to Russia. This is the view of The Scofield Reference Bible, Harry Rimmer and Hal Lindsey… The identification of Meshech with Moscow is merely based upon a similarity of sound. There is not real historical basis to support such a view, therefore, it must be rejected.” Ice thus agrees with Hitchcock and places Meshech and Tubal in Turkey: “The historical record, as was the case with Meshech, is that Tubal and his descendants immigrated to the area southeast of the Black Sea in what is modern day Turkey. Meshech and Tubal clearly provide the population base for the country we now call Turkey.”
Now, I am quite sure that despite the various references provided here, some who have long held to the notion that Magog represents Russia will just ignore all of the sources above and simply cite other works and scholars who argue or who have argued that Gog / Magog point to Russian. Of course, this debate is not new. As far back as 1706, Matthew Henry, in his classic Bible commentary, acknowledged this precise difference of opinion among fellow scholars and believers:
“Some think they find them [Gog and Magog] afar off, in Scythia, Tartary, and Russia. Others think they find them nearer the land of Israel, in Syria, and Asia the Less [Turkey].”
Of course, my purpose is not to attempt to settle the debate here in a brief blog post. In my forthcoming book Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case For an Islamic Antichrist, I take great pains to thoroughly address the various arguments that surround these passages, bringing students of Scripture up to date with modern Biblical scholarship.
Now to the issue of what lands the Assyrians occupied during the reign of King David, when Psalm 83 was written by Asaph. In the previously referenced blog post which took issue with my map of Assyria, the claim is made that Asaph ministered in 900 B.C. But this is simply not accurate. King David reigned from roughly 1010-1005 B.C. to 970-965 B.C. as any Bible commentary will verify. Asaph ministered during David’s reign. Because I attempt to interpret Psalm 83 through the “historical-grammatical” method as is practiced by all conservative scholars, I identify the Assyria of Asaph’s day, not the Assyria of 70 years later, etc. As such, the map I included in my article is accurate. The territory of Assyria during King David’s reign included a large section of modern day Turkey. For a brief period around 900 B.C. the Assyrian territory shrunk back, but soon returned to the Mediterranean and only expanded westward from there. Any effort to exclude the nation of Turkey from the list of nations in Psalm 83 is simply not in accordance with the historical record.
For those who seek to study the issue of Psalm 83 further, I would also recommend Mark Hitchcock’s newest book, Middle East Burning as well as Dr. Thomas Ice’s series of articles below.
(Note: Not at all surprising is the fact that the blog post referenced above only challenges my critique of the popular Psalm 83-War theory, but is careful not to mention Ice or Hitchcock. Ice takes far greater umbrage with the theory than myself and has presented a much more thorough critique than myself as well. Yet it is unlikely that any complete response to Ice’s papers below will be forthcoming.)
(Note: It is also important to state that my critique of the popular, multiple-war, Psalm 83 theory is not directed personally toward author Bill Salus, who has been the primary instrument to popularize this theory. Bill is a gentleman, a good brother, and has always represented Christ well in all of my personal interactions with him, showing that brothers can disagree and still display a Christ-like spirit.)
My book will be available in April. As always, all I ask is that lovers of the Scriptures—genuine Bereans simply take the time to consider the various arguments and arrive at their conclusions through their love for truth and the Scriptures, rather than based on what their particular “team” has traditionally taught. I am convinced that too many within the Body of Christ forget that we are all on the same team. With regard to the end times, we all see through a glass darkly and when all is said and done, we will all no doubt be wrong on some points, but Jesus promises to reveal the truth to those who humbly seek it. After the Messiah comes, then we will all agree on all things. For now, we are to be faithful men and women who watch and pray, as we together long for the revealing of our great King and Savior Jesus Christ:
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. —1 Peter 4:7-8
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